A roundup of some of the biggest stories from South Korean healthcare and pharma, including the government’s continuing standoff with doctors over medical reform plans; Merck’s plans for a new 300-million-euro plant; EuBiologics’s World Health Organization (WHO) prequalification for its cholera vaccine, and Samsung Biologics’ record Q1 earnings.


South Korea’s Yoon hints at flexibility in doctors’ strike as election looms (Reuters)

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol showed the first signs of flexibility in his medical reform plan as a prolonged standoff with doctors is ramping up pressure ahead of next week’s parliamentary elections which are expected to be close.
The plan, chiefly aimed at boosting medical school admissions by 2,000 from 3,000 starting in 2025, has emerged as a key issue in the elections, in which Yoon’s ruling party seeks to recapture a majority in the opposition-controlled parliament.

Pharmaceutical majors roll out generic diabetes drugs (Korea Pulse News)

South Korean pharmaceutical companies are being criticized for their excessive focus on generic combination drugs, in stark contrast to global players who are continuously introduce innovative novel drugs. The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said on Tuesday that 31 percent, or 462 out of the 1,488 drugs approved in 2023, were diabetes treatments.

Data released by market research firm UBIST showed that the country’s type 2 diabetes treatment market grew at an annual average of 8 percent over the past five years to hit about 1.5 trillion won ($1.1 billion) in 2023. The industry saw a surge in generics in 2023 as the patents for blockbuster diabetes treatments expired.


Nxera and Handok partner for PIVLAZ supply in South Korea (Pharmaceutical Technology)

Nxera Pharma Korea has entered into a strategic supply and distribution partnership with Handok for the marketing of PIVLAZ (clazosentan sodium) 150mg within the South Korean market. PIVLAZ is indicated for preventing cerebral vasospasm in aSAH patients.

Under the terms of the collaboration, Nxera Pharma Korea will be in charge of supplying PIVLAZ to Handok at a predetermined price. Handok will assume full responsibility for promotiion, marketing, sales and distribution of the drug product in South Korea.


Merck KGaA to Open $326 Million Pharmaceutical Plant in South Korea to Expand in Asia (Morning Star)

Merck KGaA will spend more than 300 million euros ($326 million) on a pharmaceutical plant in South Korea as part of its strategy to expand in Asia.

The German drug-and-chemicals company said Wednesday that the plant will add 300 jobs. The Daejeon facility will serve biotech and pharmaceutical companies that develop, research and manufacture medical treatments like vaccines and cell, gene, and protein-based therapies, Merck said.


Drug maker Boryung targets its highest-ever sales in 2024 (The Korea Economic Daily)

Boryung Corp., formerly Boryung Pharmaceutical Co., aims to join the 1 trillion won ($748 million) sales club this year, driven by new chronic disease drugs and product diversification, to become the country’s No. 1 pharmaceutical company by 2032, its chief executive said on Tuesday.

Since the launch of Kanarb, the first domestically-developed hypertension drug in 2011, Boryung has rolled out various combination drugs, the major contributor to its earnings growth.


Hanmi, Merck Enter Clinical Collaboration & Supply Agreement (Contract Pharma)

Hanmi Pharmaceutical, a biopharma company in Korea that focuses on oncology, obesity/metabolism, and rare diseases, has entered into a Clinical Trial Collaboration and Supply Agreement with MSD (Merck & Co., Inc.)

Under the agreement, Hanmi Pharmaceutical will conduct a phase 1 clinical trial to evaluate the safety and efficacy of its immuno-oncology drug, BH3120, in combination with MSD’s anti-PD-1 therapy, KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab), in patients with progressive or metastatic solid tumors. Hanmi Pharmaceutical will sponsor the clinical trial, and MSD will supply KEYTRUDA.

Korea-based EuBiologics’ cholera vaccine achieves WHO prequalification (BioSpectrum Asia)

EuBiologics and the International Vaccine Institute (IVI), based in South Korea, have announced that Euvichol-S, an improved oral cholera vaccine (OCV) developed jointly by EuBiologics and IVI, has achieved World Health Organization prequalification (PQ).

Euvichol-S is a new OCV that has improved productivity by about 40 percent over the existing Euvichol-Plus by modifying the formulation and manufacturing method of the original vaccine material.


Korean firms OSR Holdings and SillaJen ink deal to develop innovative therapies and enter US market (BioSpectrum Asia)

South Korea-based biotech startup OSR Holdings has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with SillaJen, a Kosdaq-listed biotech firm with a pipeline of immuno-oncology drug candidates, to share technology and clinical development resources and launch a strategic collaboration between the two companies.

Through the MoU, the two companies will explore various ways to collaborate to create synergies between current platform technologies and new drug candidates.


Avance Clinical expands further into APAC with new clinical operations in South Korea (BioSpectrum Asia)

Avance Clinical has announced the opening of new clinical operations in Seoul, South Korea. Avance Clinical CEO, Yvonne Lungershausen said the decision to open clinical operations in Seoul followed increasing demand from later phase US biotechs, as well as CRO partners for access to the region’s scientific excellence and patient populations.

“In addition, feedback from a recent presentation of our GlobalReady drug development solution to more than 75 Korean biotechs and pharmaceutical companies in Seoul showed a real need for Korean clinical operations with a global pathway,” said Lungershausen.

Samsung Biologics achieves record Q1 earnings (Fierce Pharma)

Samsung Biologics, the giant South Korea-based CDMO, reported an all-time earnings high in the first quarter of this year.

The company reported that consolidated sales, which give an overall view of Samsung Biologics and its subsidiaries, jumped 31.3% during the January through March period to 946.9 billion South Korean won ($690 million) compared to 720.9 billion South Korean won ($520 million) for the same quarter in 2023.